“Let’s be bad guys.”
-Jayne Cobb, Serenity
Location: Union, NJ
Date played: May 23, 2016
Team size: 6; we recommend 4-5
Price: $30 per ticket
Story & setting
In The Heist, we were criminals breaking into a collector’s office to find and steal a precious key. We tackled this clandestine operation under the cover of darkness with the aid of handheld flashlights.
The props and puzzles had an Indiana Jones-y feel.
The Heist’s overarching puzzle was finding the puzzles. Given that we were in a collector’s quarters, there were plenty of objects to explore. We needed to search thoroughly with our flashlights to determine what would be relevant. And not everything was relevant.
Ultimately, this was a puzzler’s escape room. It was packed with a variety of mental challenges. As the game progressed, the game revealed new and sometimes complicated puzzles even as time burned down.
Break Free NJ designed, constructed, and/or modified most of their puzzle elements. Their work was their own. They created some cool stuff.
The Heist included a few technologically-driven interactions that we really enjoyed.
Frequently in heist-style escape rooms, the company will go miles out of their way to frame the players as “the good guys.” There’s a lot of, “You’re stealing stuff, but you’re stealing it from bad people.” It was refreshing and entertaining to have no such pretense.
This escape room lacked polish.
Some hand-drawn clues could be easily misinterpreted, especially in dim light. We encountered equipment that wasn’t calibrated quite properly. Items that needed to stay together could be easily separated as we turned the room over.
There were also too many locks with the same digit structure. It was difficult to know where to input a derived solution. This was complicated by the dark and the flashlights.
A collector’s gallery invites red herrings and this room escape included a few brutal ones, given the intrigue of these non-essential objects with so much puzzle potential. Some of the red herrings felt like major letdowns.
Should I play Break Free NJ’s The Heist?
The folks at Break Free NJ are creative and passionate about their craft. They have the engineering know-how to build more complex interactions and they are continually developing their technique as the business grows.
The Heist isn’t a cake walk. It’s a hard game with a lot of puzzle meat on its bones.
They provide top-notch customer service, but they need to mind the details in other ways. They would do well to invest in the ambiance in order to ditch the darkness/flashlight set-up that only adds frustration instead of real challenge. They should continue to refine their interactions, keeping the puzzles the star of the show.
This wasn’t a high-budget New York City production, but it offered more challenge and intrigue than most suburban room escape newcomers. If you are looking for ambiance, details, and story, this isn’t your game. But if you want an hour of handcrafted, expertly modified, challenging puzzles, it’s worth the stop in Union, NJ.
Break Free NJ is a company with a ton of potential and we look forward to returning to play their other offerings.
Book your hour with Break Free NJ’s The Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.